45Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” 46But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” 48Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” 49Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” 50Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” – Jn 1: 45-51 NAB
Wednesday’s Gospel from John made me recall exactly four years and four months earlier when I first met Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. My story of that first encounter, while separated and modernized by almost two thousand years, is similar to that of Nathanael (more commonly known as St. Bartholomew).
There was Nathanael minding his own business on the shore of the Sea of Galilee when his friend Philip walked up and said, “Hey, I want you to meet someone important from Nazareth.” Nathanael replied, “What? From Nazareth? I don’t think so!” But, since Philip was such a good friend, Nathanael, although doubtful, decided to go along.
Jesus used Philip as his intermediary. Jesus knew He was going to call Nathanael but He also knew Nathanael would be more likely to follow Him if he received encouragement in the form of testimony from his friend. It worked, and the rest is history.
I have no idea how many times Jesus might have called me and I wasn’t listening or I out and out rejected Him. But, I think He knew when the time was right and that I would need His disciples to lead me to Him.
Countless times I refused invitations from my friends Clay and Eric to attend men’s bible study sessions where holy men just like them shared their faith with each other. Over a period of months we, along with our wives, occasionally went out for dinner together and the conversations would inevitably turn to discussions of faith, and I would be uncomfortable. They were sowing the seeds. They were on a mission to make a friend, be a friend, and bring a friend to Christ.
Just like St. Philip, my two friends arranged the meeting. I accepted their invitation to attend a Christ Renews His Parish retreat weekend. Then, after they brought Him and me together in the same place, they stepped out of the way. That part of their job was over. The rest was up to Him. And He didn’t disappoint.
That weekend, I witnessed the Holy Spirit at work through the men facilitating the retreat. It didn’t take long before my notion about faith in Jesus changed from, “It can’t be”, to, “It might be.” Little by little, I heard The Calling. I gave an inch. He took a mile. I gave Him part of me but He wanted all of me. I was happy to oblige. Now, over four years later, I’m still giving and trying to find a way to give even more. And, what I receive in return is beyond anything I could have ever imagined! I certainly have seen “greater things”.
I owe this life to a couple close friends who weren’t afraid to live the Christ life by evangelizing and introducing me to their Lord Jesus.
It’s not easy being an apostle like St. Philip. It takes courage. It takes patience. It takes a lot of prayer. Some of us are better suited for that type of evangelization than others. But, we can all evangelize in one way or another. For me, these blog posts are one of my ways of evangelizing. What is your way? If you don’t know where to begin, you can start by following the advice of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”
“Lord Jesus, through the love of Your apostles I was led to You and You have shown me the way to eternal life. Help me, I pray, to bring Your love to others who, like I was, are seeking the fullness of life that only You have to offer. Amen.”
(The Calling was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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